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Talking Sport with Neil Trainis

PUBLISHED: 12:49 10 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:07 02 July 2010

LONDON - JULY 23:  Umpire Steve Bucknor signals a no ball during day five of the First Test match between England and India at Lord's on July 23, 2007 in London, England.  (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)

LONDON - JULY 23: Umpire Steve Bucknor signals a no ball during day five of the First Test match between England and India at Lord's on July 23, 2007 in London, England. (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)

2007 Getty Images

THE way in which the International Cricket Council functions should undergo an intense but much-needed review in 2008. Recent events have highlighted that reform is required. Player power has unmasked an inability on the part of the sport s governing body

THE way in which the International Cricket Council functions should undergo an intense but much-needed review in 2008. Recent events have highlighted that reform is required.

Player power has unmasked an inability on the part of the sport's governing body to handle the aftermath of on-field and off-field disputes effectively and with clarity.

Rather than lucidity in enforcing its Code of Conduct, there have emerged mixed messages as an organisation responsible for implementing its rules has found itself dictated to and, perhaps, influenced.

How else does one explain the ICC's decision to stand down the experienced umpire Steve Bucknor from the Perth Test in the wake of pressure from India, who claimed errors from the Jamaican played a part in Australia securing a 2-0 lead in Sydney in the four-Test series.

An umpire who has presided over all World Cup Finals since 1992 and boasting 120 Test matches under his belt had made several errors which had, in India's view, severely undermined their attempt to save a tight match.

Bucknor had already been heavily criticised on day one for failing to give Andrew Symonds out, caught behind, allowing the all-rounder to amass an unbeaten 162, and he compounded his mistake by awarding the Australian the controversial wicket of Rahul Dravid, deemed to have been edged to Adam Gilchrist.

Replays suggested the decision was incorrect, Dravid's crucial resistance to India's resuscitation having been halted unjustifiably, but there was more to come when Sourav Ganguly, who had reached 51 off 56 balls, appeared to be caught by a diving Michael Clarke.

Repeats of the 'catch' were inconclusive but the umpires, whose view of the incident was apparently blocked, gave Ganguly out amid intense persuasion from Clarke and Australia captain Ricky Ponting.

There is little doubt that Bucknor, by the high standards he has set over the years in high pressure matches, had a stinker at the Sydney Cricket Ground but the ICC's decision to expel a man with more experience of international umpiring than most, in the face of what amounted to bullying from one of its members, smacks of vulnerability.

It could be argued that Bucknor has been on the wane for the past few seasons and many would claim that, at the age of 61, the time has come to pension him off.

Yet India had threatened to pack their bags and head home if Bucknor had not been replaced for the third Test and Harbhajan Singh's ban, for allegedly aiming a racist remark at Symonds during the Sydney Test, lifted.

Time was at a premium, with the start of the third Test 10 days after the completion of the Sydney match, but the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) appear to have been placated by the ICC rather than confronted in a strong, professional manner.

Indeed, the BCCI extended their promise to walk away from the series if Singh was not allowed to play while his appeal is pending, which looks likely much to Australia's annoyance, and reiterated their threat to pull out if the 27-year-old is not exonerated of the charges.

Australia, too, should have been sanctioned for their attempt to influence the umpires to dismiss Ganguly.

After all, "excessive appealing" or "aggressive pointing towards the pavilion by a member of the fielding side upon the dismissal of a batsman" are classed as level one offences in the ICC'S code of conduct, though Australia would claim there was nothing "aggressive" about Ponting's finger-wagging.

The response so far of the governing body to Australia's perceived poor on-field behaviour has been insipid, even though they have brought in Sri Lankan referee, Ranjan Madugalle, as mediator to calm the friction between Ponting and India captain Anil Kumble.

When a team stands accused of breaking the rules and challenging the game's most basic of principles - respecting the umpire's decision - then throws its toys out of the pram, it seems the consequences are watered down rather than hard-hitting.

Memories of Inzamam-ul Haq taking his Pakistan side off the Oval pitch during a Test against England in 2006 having been accused by umpire Darrell Hair of ball tampering should have been a warning to the ICC.

Then, the organisation was effectively held to ransom by one of its members and an experienced umpire lost his career. Sound familiar? Sydney has dangerous echoes of that episode.

From June, David Morgan will be the man charged with preserving the credibility of the ICC, one that has been rigorously tested in the last two years, when he becomes president of the organisation.

Having mediated numerous disputes as chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board during his four-year period in office, he appears well equipped to tackle the issues.

The reintroduction of the rule allowing players to challenge a limited number of decisions under the adjudication of TV officials would take the pressure off umpires. Persuading national boards to put their interests on the backburner for those of the game as a whole would also undeniably improve the game at all levels.

Just as important for Morgan though is to ensure that the ICC is seen to supervise the sport with conviction.

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